I have learned over lo these many years of puzzling that seeing Ms. Weintraub's byline means we're going to get a high quality themeless puzzle, and today's does not disappoint. In fact, this has been one of my favorite weeks of blogging in quite some time.
First off, is it possible that STKITTS and NEVIS were the seed entries for the puzzle? Or was it simply happenchance that they could fit in so neatly near each other as the rest of the puzzle came together? I thank my unhealthy interest in Sporcle quizzes for my knowledge of tiny Caribbean North American island countries.
I love how all the long answers in this grid intersect. SCHNITZEL (such a lovely crunchy word) meeting STRINGTHEORY, crossing CONTOURMAP and INNERPEACE. So excellent.
The NW section also has a primer on the difference between QMC and non QMC clues. At 17A: Car owner's manual? (STICKSHIFT) is a classic QMC. Here the trickiness is the alternate meaning of the word "manual," from a how-to book to an adjective describing the gearshift mechanism. On the other hand, at 20A: One might get stuck in an office (POSTITNOTE) is tricky only in that the word "one" is referring to an object rather than a person.
On the whole, I enjoy the non QMC clues better, because they don't alert you to the presence of trickiness, making the "aha" moment more enjoyable. For example, 8D: Giraffe's sound? (SOFTG) was a gimme because of the question mark. Whereas in the past, I have been repeatedly fooled by this kind of clue. Or maybe I've just gotten wise to their sneaky ways. Those sneaky sneaky crossword constructors!
Finally, my favorite clue and answer came at 48A: Unlucky phrase to end on (HELOVESMENOT). That's fun stuff.